Linux Magazines: Something About England

Tux, the Linux penguin
Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATE 12/11/2013: Linux Voice has reached its goal, and will be published! I’ve signed up for a digital sub, and all the other perks are still available at the Indiegogo site until December 23.

For some reason, print magazines continue to thrive in Great Britain. Aside from WIRED, practically all the print magazines my wife and I read fly across the Atlantic to my living room (either by mail or book/magazine shop): Doctor Who Magazine, Prog, Linux Pro (which is technically German, but printed in English).

Linux Format is another of those successful magazines based in the United Kingdom, at least until the recent departure of its core editorial staff. Monday, those guys announced their new magazine project, called Linux Voice.

Several things make this project stand out:

  • They are crowdsourcing the funding at Indiegogo (exactly like the Ubuntu Edge, but with a far lower goal).
  • They intend to give half their profits to worthy free software projects (selected by the magazine readers).
  • They will work with their writers to make all the magazine’s content (especially the how-to material) available online nine months after publication.

Those of us in the states have been modestly spoiled by the amount of useful free Linux content at, and other online versions of print magazines. One look at the current Linux Format website, and aside from the TuxRadar podcast, you’re hard pressed to find any content at all!

Brian Fagioli of BetaNews interviewed Ben Everard of Linux Voice, where many interesting things were said. My favorite quote?

It will target the same blend of content and level of difficulty, and it’ll be written mostly by the same team of writers. However, we won’t be hamstrung by a corporate system that puts squeezing out every drop of profit ahead of creating an awesome magazine and supporting the community. In short, Linux Voice will be like Linux Format done properly.

At Indiegogo, would-be print subscribers in the US can sign up for £90 for the first year ($143.14 according to Google). Digital subscribers get in for £35 ($55.66). Other levels are available, with the usual assortment of perks.

Larry the Free Software Guy also likes the project. Larry is something of a free-software purist (which is not to say he’s a bad person), so his support means something. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Linux Voice plans to feature Larry’s favorite distribution in its first issue.

I think this is a worthy endeavor, and hope to squeeze some cash out of my budget to support this.

You can follow the project’s progress on Indiegogo, on the magazine’s website, on Google+ and Twitter.

Spring Conferences Galore!

Busy month ahead, with much to say and much to learn. This time of year is usually when I can go to professional conferences, but I seem much more involved with organizing them this year. In particular, I’m talking about (and at, truth be told) these two, separated by just two weeks!

Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Saturday, May 19: WriteCamp Milwaukee 4

This “traditional un-conference” (if there can be such a thing) is for everyone who writes: Fiction, nonfiction, with multiple books and/or bylines or just a blog or a novel cooking in the word processor that no one’s ever seen. No matter what sort of writing project you’re interested in doing, there’s a place for you at WriteCamp.

What’s traditional about this un-conference? Well, the biggest thing is that there’s no set schedule. You’ll come in to the Hide House in beautiful Bay View, in the southeast corner of Milwaukee and encounter a blank wall with time slots and rooms demarcated with tape. Want to lead a session about something? Take a Post-It note and slap the topic in one of the blank slots. You’re in! Of course, some of us have posted some ideas for sessions on the website already. You can add some there too. There are no guarantees that any of them will be presented–but if you post a comment on the ones you want to see, the people with the idea will be impressed (believe me!).

I have learned more than a little at previous WriteCamps, mostly about social media and freelance practices. I’ve led sessions on the future of journalism and held WordPress clinics. This year, I’m planning sessions on getting into technical communication and “WordPress for Writers.”

The other traditionally unconference-y thing that WriteCamp Milwaukee adheres to is that it is free to attend (though if you’re in Milwaukee tonight, April 26, check out the comedy benefit at Stonefly Brewery!), and you get lunch, a mid-day poetry slam demonstration, and a tote bag with assorted goodies besides the education.

WordCamp Milwaukee 2012

Things are really heating up for the first ever WordCamp in Milwaukee, set for the first weekend in June, and that’s terrific!

We have a spectacular lineup of speakers  for both the User track and the Developer track. These WordPress gurus are mostly from the Greater Milwaukee area and from that city of big shoulders a little south of here. You even get two authors of WordPress books: I’ll be the one standing in Lisa Sabin-Wilson‘s shadow.

What am I talking about? All about the amount of help any WordPress user can get just by kicking around the and sites.

There’s an un-conference track, where people will be running informal sessions on topics yet to be determined (and yes, you can get in on that too). And we’re working hard to staff the Happiness Bar for the full conference. This is where users and developers can get answers to their particular problems.

We’re working on some fun stuff too, but it’s not ready to unveil yet.

Unlike WriteCamp, WordCamp Milwaukee costs, though not much (just $20). Buy your ticket before May Day to guarantee your commemorative t-shirt.

All this activity is forcing me to miss the annual Technical Communication Summit sponsored by the Society for Technical Communication in Rosemont, Illinois. But you can follow news from the summit via my pals at

Hope to see you at one of these swell gigs!

Somewhat Shameless Self-Promotion: WordPress in Depth

English: Old books
Image via Wikipedia

We’re not especially into the hype and commercialism that often slips into the blogosphere. At Notes from the Metaverse, the goal is to empower ordinary folks to use technology to find their voice and get things done. I hope this blog helps you navigate the occasionally treacherous waters of open source technology, especially desktop Linux and WordPress. I firmly believe that good content is the most important SEO tool there is.

That said, if you happen to know someone who is thinking about starting a blog in 2012, or wants to take advantage of all WordPress has to offer, you could do a lot worse than picking up a copy of WordPress in Depth.

I have to say that I’ve been amazed and humbled at some of the reviews for the second edition that have appeared at Indulge me for a minute while I show you some of the quotes that warm my heart (even if the spelling isn’t always perfect):

It is well-written for people like me who know there way around a computer but don’t consider themselves too technical.  –Michael Gallagher

This book WordPress in Depth, is easy to understand even when talking about the professional side of WordPress. –S. Nichols

Some manuals have the detail but not the clarity required to be user friendly. This one delivers the information in a clear manner and is well organized. It describes putting up a WordPress blog in a chronological manner that would allow the reader to sit down at the computer with the manual and just work their way through the process.  –Lou Belcher

I was very happy to receive this book because I am interested in starting a blog and I have absolutely ZERO experience with WordPress and very limited experience with any kind of programming at all, but I am pretty good at following “recipes.” To push the analogy, WordPress In Depth (2nd Edition) not only gives you the recipes, but teaches you how the various ingredients chemically react to one another to produce a result. Some chefs want to know that stuff; others just want the cake to come out right. This book is for the former.   –S. Rudge

Bud Smith and I worked hard to make the new edition more “in depth,” yet still friendly to the rank beginner. Admittedly, not everyone agrees that we succeeded.

Thanks to the inevitable lag in publishing schedules, the book doesn’t cover some of the newer embellishments in WordPress, but watch this space for help on that score soon. If there’s something in particular you want to know about, please leave a comment here.

You can find WordPress in Depth wherever you find quality computer books (and I know that’s harder than it used to be), be it in your town or at your computer. It comes in paper and electronic versions.

As the pitchman always says: If you liked either edition of WordPress in Depth, tell a friend. If not, tell me, in the Comments. Ideas for future editions are greatly appreciated too. What have you had trouble learning in WordPress? What features excite you most?

While you’re still in the book shopping mood, you might also want to check out these recent releases:

  • Bud Smith, my outstanding collaborator, never stops writing. He’s got Using iPad 2 out now.
  • Rochelle Melander, the WriteNow Coach, inspires writers in Milwaukee and elsewhere with her blog and workshops. She’s also a friend of WriteCamp Milwaukee, which makes her a all-round terrific person. Her latest, Write-a-Thon,  is something I’ve been meaning to get since before it came out, but I procrastinate.

And so concludes our marketing interlude. I’ll return to helpful content sooner than you think!

Whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope it’s a good one! And may 2012 be the best ever!

Another Transition: Linux Journal Goes All-Digital

Linux Journal logo.svg
Image via Wikipedia

The word went out Friday: the 208th monthly edition of Linux Journal would be the last of its kind in print. Starting immediately, the magazine would no longer be printed and delivered to newsstands and subscribers. Instead, a plain PDF or enhanced PDF from a company called Texterity will be delivered to subscribers.

Doc Searls described the reasons for the switch thusly in the article linked above:

Just this month, ABC reported that newsstand magazine sales fell 9% in the first six months of this year. The Wall Street Journal reported a drop of 9.2% for consumer magazines, with double-digit drops for celebrity weeklies like People andStar. Women’s Wear Daily reported similar drops for all but one fashion magazine: Vogue, thanks to one Lady Gaga cover.

The big computer-industry trade magazines from the ’90s have either disappeared or gone digital. Of the big three publishers, only IDG is still intact, but relatively few of its old magazines are still in print.

We survived while others failed by getting lean and staying focused. But the costs of printing and distributing continue to go up. We could keep publishing in print if we could raise the number of advertiser pages, but we don’t see that happening.

So, after a fashion, you can see the writing on the wall. The backlash against the decision can be seen in the comment stream. These ranged from the likes of (not actual quotes) “Well, duh, this was inevitable. You gotta get used to it” to pleas for the ability to read the magazine while camping.

One of the more thoughtful critics wondered whether historians and archaeologists of the future might believe humans of our age lost the ability to write, given the lack of tangible artifacts. I suspect there’s a good sci-fi story in that idea; wish I had the imagination to write it.

Now I’ll admit that I lean more toward the side that says “isn’t a printed computer magazine something of an anachronism these days?” But I’ll also admit that I don’t really make time to read all the electronic publications I subscribe to. I find it a little hard to make time for the print publications I subscribe to as well.

I do think that we will eventually everyone will be going all-digital, and probably sooner rather than later. As some folks in the LJ comment thread noted, it’s important to do it right, though. I hope that as this transition proceeds, we can all find the right form(s) for our information.

As a writer, I also hope that LJ remains a paying market for the people who provide the content we all read. To that end, I intend to keep my subscription for as long as possible, and recommend you do that too. I’d give ’em a raise too, but that’s just me. Disclaimer: I sold a story to the website (not the print version) a few years ago, and hope to do so again one day.

Do you read Linux Journal? Other Linux-oriented print publications? Do you read electronic magazines of any kind? Are print magazines on the way out, and is that a good thing? Just a few of the many questions raised by this decision; feel free to comment here on any or all of them.

Conference Season 2011

Spring is here and it’s time to get educated. Yes, I suspect that a lot of you reading this are still in school, and aching for the days when you won’t be sitting in a room being educated. Tragically, I have to tell you that once you get out in the Real World, you really begin to relish the few chances to get together with colleagues, perhaps in a strange city, and learn new things. That’s what I’m doing now.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be attending (or keeping watch on) these great events. For most of these, you’re more than welcome to join me:

Society for Technical Communication Summit
Dates: May 15-18, 2011
Location: Sacramento, CA Convention Center
Twitter Hashtag: #stc11

This is the annual conference of my professional organization, and my employer is sending me so I can be a better tech writer. As a bonus, I get to see possibly the most famous technical communicator in the world. Tim O’Reilly is our keynoter Sunday night, and while you may know him as the god of technical publishing, I just learned from this interview at South By Southwest that the publishing business started during a slack time in his tech writing consultant business. There’s much more of interest in that hour-long podcast, but I’m really looking forward to hearing him.

This will be my second STC conference, and the last one was quite useful. I’m confident it’ll be another good experience.

WriteCamp Milwaukee 3
Date: June 4, 2011
Location: Hide House, Milwaukee, WI
Hashtag: #writecamp

This local gathering/unconference of writers of all genres is a great opportunity to break out of the isolation of the Writer’s Life, see what other people are doing, and learn something new. It’s the brainchild of my friend Boone Dryden.

I’ve proposed two WordPress-related sessions. I’ll give one or both, depending on interest.

In any case, it should be great fun and always interesting.

Open Help Conference
Date: June 3-5, 2011
Location: University of Cincinnati, OH
Hashtag: ??

I wish I could get out of town to attend this gathering of documentation teams for various open source products, but I’ll try to follow this online.

Folks from Ubuntu Linux, the GNOME project, FLOSS Manuals (I’ve also written about my experiences with FLOSS Manuals here) and Mozilla will be there. One of my favorite tech-book authors, Anne Gentle, will also be talking about community building.

WordCamp Chicago
Date: July 30-31, 2011
Location: DePaul University, Chicago, IL
Hashtag: #WCChicago

One of a zillion WordCamps that happen every year, where people spend a weekend talking about WordPress. Someday we want to have one in Milwaukee, but this isn’t too far away. They’re pulling together a program as we speak, and nobody knows yet who will appear. I’m hoping it’ll be great!

Meanwhile, the second Milwaukee WordPress Meetup is in the works, for sometime in June. More info to come on that!

So whether you can make any of the above events (and I’d love to see you), do try to find like minds this spring and summer, and don’t put your brain entirely on hold.

Do you have a favorite conference? Hate one or more of the above events? A preference for one or another WriteCamp session? Other spring-like thoughts? Share them in the Comments window.